Turkey travel updates and testing for COVID-19

Turkey is the top holiday destination for U.K. travelers looking to go on a vacation or visit their holiday homes in the country. Ever since England adopted the traffic light system for international travel in early May, Turkey has remained on the country’s “Red List,” causing disappointment among many Brits this year.

Turkey is certainly not alone, however, as the U.K.’s “Red List” includes 62 countries, with Montenegro and Thailand being the most recent additions. All U.K. citizens arriving from “Red List” must endure a 10-day hotel quarantine at a cost of around 2,000 pounds ($2,756) per adult. In addition, there are pre-departure Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test requirements and mandatory testing on day two and day eight of the quarantine duration.

While the pandemic crowds that have settled in Bodrum have more than maxed out the area’s capacity, other regions in Turkey, such as Dalyan, which relies on British tourists, have definitely felt their absence. It’s hard to understand why Turkey remains on the U.K.’s “Red List” as coronavirus figures are lower in Turkey than in the U.K. and the seven-day incidence rate is nearly half. Nonetheless, hopes are that Turkey will be reconsidered in the next assessment expected on Sept. 16.

Dalyan canal view. (Shutterstock Photo)
Dalyan canal view. (Shutterstock Photo)

What are the current travel conditions in Turkey?

Turkey has also suspended flights with a number of countries; namely Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Nepal, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Any passengers that have spent time in these countries, as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan, over the prior 15 days to their arrival to Turkey will be subject to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken at most 72 hours prior to departure. Meanwhile, the same requirement is true for any passengers arriving from Egypt, Iran, Singapore, or the United Kingdom. Those passengers arriving from other destinations must either have a negative PCR or antigen test (taken 48 hours prior) or have a COVID-19 certificate proving they were vaccinated at least 14 days earlier.

Since March, all entrants to Turkey have had to submit a mandatory health declaration referred to as the “Entry Form to Turkey,” which is an online form that generates a QR Code and a HES Code. HES, stands for “Hayat Eve Sığar” in Turkish, which translates to “Life Fits into Home” and is Turkey’s COVID-19 tracking app. The code is helpful as it is required for public transportation and entry into many shopping centers and official buildings. The form, available at the website https://register.health.gov.tr/ requests information such as contact and travel details and must be completed before boarding. The form is not required for transit passengers or children under the age of six.

For flying out to countries such as Germany, Russia and the U.S., arrivals from Turkey must have either a negative COVID-19 test result from within 72 hours of departure, a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or proof of recovery from coronavirus. For arrivals in the U.S., those who have not been vaccinated must quarantine for seven days if they agree to get tested again and 10 days if they refrain from taking another test.

To count as fully vaccinated in the U.S., a passenger must have had two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson vaccine. Passengers who have been given either the Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccines are not considered fully vaccinated according to U.S. travel criteria.

New domestic flight requirements

As of Sept. 6, 2021, for domestic flights in Turkey, it will now be required that passengers present one of three documents, which are: a negative result from a PCR test taken within 48 hours before boarding, a vaccination certificate proving all necessary vaccinations have been completed at least 14 days prior to flying, or a document proving that you have recovered from COVID-19 within the past 180 days.

How to get tested for COVID-19 in Turkey

It is extremely easy to get a COVID-19 PCR test in Turkey. All state hospitals provide the test for free for some groups of people like students or teachers, while private hospitals charge around 250 TL (around $30). All airports in Turkey also have testing centers and the cost is approximately 170 TL. In Istanbul for example, the Istanbul Airport has a 24-hour PCR testing center located on the arrivals floor (exit gate number 14) that efficiently offers testing and results. The PCR test results are made available in 1 1/2 hours and the center also offers the antibody blood test, which determines whether someone has previously been infected with COVID-19 and the antigen test, which establishes whether the individual is still sick. The antibody test takes 45 minutes to see results, while the antigen test results are released in just 20 minutes.

COVID-19 nasal swab laboratory test. (Shutterstock Photo)
COVID-19 nasal swab laboratory test. (Shutterstock Photo)

To get tested you simply get a queue number by clicking on the “I want to get tested” button at the kiosk, which accepts cash or credit card. Keep in mind that to get your results, you also have to get a queue number by pressing on the “I wish to get my test results” option at the ticket dispenser after which you can obtain the document certifying the results at the information desk in the testing area.

Resources on Turkey, COVID-19 and travel for expats, visitors

Throughout the pandemic, the “Coronavirus Turkey – UK Information” Facebook group, run by a number of expats and Turkish translators, has provided invaluable knowledge and assistance to expats connected to Turkey. In addition, the group posts daily statistics and incident maps from the HES app upon request so anyone can easily see what the rate of infection is in their area of interest in Turkey.

“Travel Bug” is another Facebook group that was started in 2019 by John McLaughlin, who was driving from the U.K. to Turkey’s Didim with his son. The photos they took and the adventures they shared from their journey spawned a popular Facebook travel group amongst expats driving between the two countries or connected somehow to travel and Turkey. This group inspired Lucie Fontana, whose husband was in Turkey when the U.K. clamped down, to start the Facebook group “Come fly with me!” which focuses on air travel between the countries. This extremely helpful and active group has skyrocketed to have nearly 9,000 members all discussing topics related to Coronavirus, Turkey and travel.

“Doc Martins Surgery for Expats” in Turkey has always served as the official guide for anything Turkey-related and has a blog site, where the answers to most any question you may have are explained in precise detail. In addition to practical information on residing in Turkey, the group also answers questions such as how to get an EU QR code attached to a Turkish Vaccination Certificate. Meanwhile, “Bodrum Echo Community,” “Fethiye Times” and “The Ege Eye” have always been excellent resources for any information regarding Turkey and all have active Facebook pages.